UBC Undergraduate Research

Universal Change Rooms Programming and Policy for the UBC Life Building Anthony, Claire; Walker, Taryn; Ignatieff, Delaney; Marks-Worling, Chris; Blair, Akaya


The objective of the following research project proposed by SEEDS was to acquire feedback from UBC students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding UBC community about the UBC Life Building's universal change rooms. According to previous research, the existing design of gender-based change rooms creates an environment that does not promote inclusivity (Herrick and Duncan, 2018). According to Davis (2016), the more recent use of stand-alone, gender-free stalls forces transgender athletes to use a space that doesn’t recognize their chosen gender identity, resulting in forms of segregation, stigmatization, and isolation. This was found to be detrimental to physical, mental and emotional health (Sherwood & Jeffery, 2000). Although individuals of the LGTBQ+ community may benefit greatly from the implementation of universal change rooms, the facilities are meant for anyone interested in changing in a more inclusive and private environment. There is a widespread stereotype that universal change rooms are created for people of the LGTBQ+ community, therefore much of the current research focuses on this group specifically when collecting data on universal change rooms (Designing for Inclusivity, 2018). This research project intends to gather and use community input from a diverse group of UBC students, faculty, staff and the UBC community on how to best communicate and encourage the use of universal change rooms in the UBC Life Building. The purpose is to help inform UBC’s Recreation team on how to best advise its surrounding community about existing universal change rooms, and what can be done to encourage further use of such facilities. The target population includes UBC students, faculty, staff, and surrounding UBC community members of any age, gender identity, and ethnicity who regularly use the UBC Life Building at least once a month. Participants were recruited by posters placed strategically around the UBC Life Building and Woodward Instructional Resources Centre, as it was anticipated that the majority of patrons using these buildings would have had the opportunity to use the UBC Life Building’s universal change rooms. Participating individuals were able to complete an online survey, and/or engage in in-person interviews at the UBC Life Building regarding their experiences with universal change rooms. The findings of this research project suggest that the UBC community approaches the use of universal change rooms with mostly positive or neutral views. Any criticisms expressed by participants often stemmed from miscommunication about the use, function and purpose of universal change rooms. Some participants were concerned with mixed gendered use of change rooms, and seeing users change in the open. This perception is misinformed as universal change rooms are designed with private spaces for changing and showering (Design for Inclusivity, 2018). Additionally, some participants suggest that a stigma has been created about the UBC Life Building’s universal change rooms due to the communication surrounding it, which normalizes it’s use for certain groups, such as the LGBTQ+ community. In reality, however, everyone is encouraged to use these change rooms. It is therefore suggested that the UBC Recreation team utilize methods such as personalized email and accessible website information to practice more effective knowledge translation to the public. These methods should be accessible and informative, featuring information such as the universal change room’s location, functions, purpose behind its implementation, and privacy rules. With these strategies implemented, it is hypothesized that the awareness, perception, and use of universal change rooms by UBC students, faculty, staff and surrounding UBC community would increase and improve. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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